Columbia woman helps refugees during tax season

COLUMBIA - Charlotte Huhtanen has spent most of her life serving others. 

"My husband and I were in the Peace Corps from 1998 to 2000 and we did it earlier in the 70's when we were younger too," Huhtanen said.

It wasn't until she came across the City of Refuge organization at a church event that she started helping local refugees with their taxes. 

"I was helping with a home makeover for one of the families when I met Barry and Lori," Charlotte said.

Barry Stoll is the executive director of the City of Refuge and Lori Stoll is the Refugee Care Coordinator.

"They didn't have anyone to depend on so they started coming to my office so I could help them with their taxes," Charlotte said. 

Charlotte spent part of her life teaching about home economics and now does her tax preparation work for McMillen Tax Services. She offers tax help to refugees for discounted rates, brings her services to them, and works with a translator to better communicate. 

"Charlotte is one of those people in our community who cares very much for the refugees," Barry said.

This is the second year Charlotte has coordinated with the City of Refuge to provide tax help.

"Last year I helped about 20 people and this year I plan to help many more."

With her sights set on the future, Charlotte plans to continue her services in the years to come.

"I plan to do it as long as I'm working, I may have to retire someday but as long as I'm working I can always help the city of refuge."